Preparing for a Trip to Turkey
Know before you go
Here are a few things to keep in mind before your trip to Turkey. If you're flying into Istanbul, there are plenty of malls and stores to get necessities, and travel agents to help with last minute reservations.
US Citizens can get visas online ahead of time, not required, but helpful since the line at the airport can get long. Visas are $20 USD and take about ten minutes online.
Learning a little bit of Turkish will go a long way. While most people speak English, especially in the popular cities, Turks are very appreciative of any effort on the part of visitors. Basic phrases will get you invited in for tea and will get you any type of help you need. See this guide for some basics.
The Turkish Lira is the standard currency and most establishments prefer cash over credit cards. This is up to personal preferences and how much cash one wants to carry and there are plenty of ATMs all around. Euros and US Dollars are accepted but often you'll be paying a higher rate. Be careful when using credit cards as hackers are rampant and waiting to steal PINs, credit card numbers, and other information.
Inside bazaars, markets, and taxis, bargaining is the way to go. A simple purchase will take no less than 45 minutes, with bigger purchases involving tea and much more time.
1. Istanbul Museum Pass. Depending on your time-frame and energy levels, this could be a great option to skip lines and save money. Don't confuse it with the MüzeKart which is only for Turkish citizens. The Museum Pass can be ordered ahead of time and delivered to your hotel or purchased at many of the museums in Istanbul. Many places are closed on Sundays and Mondays, with Topkapi closed on Tuesdays.
2. Transit Pass. Ask your hotel or any kiosk about purchasing the Istanbulkart. It's reloadable and can be used for trams, buses, and ferries.
Turkish politics has been top of mind for travelers and it would be helpful to read some (unbiased) sources of information. Keep in mind that Turkey is a large and diverse country made up of people with drastically different views and motivations. Keep an open mind and be inquisitive and be careful not to impose personal views on the conversations with locals. Before you go, read up on the 2016 coup attempt, the PKK, and why Atatürk matters.
Words of Caution
Like many destinations, Turkey has its share of difficulties:
-Avoid restaurants begging you to look at their menu, and avoid ordering without a menu (tourist prices are painful)
-Prepare to pay to use bathrooms (and maybe squat)
-Do not insult Turkish honor or pride: one way to do this is shop around for prices and pit tour guides against each other.
-Always ask for receipts
-Hotels are a great place to get information without pressure
-Ask for help if you're confused by transportation and departure times
-Pay attention to your liras, the $5 and $50 look very similar and can be confused